Wednesday, July 23, 2008

d. Larry Fessenden

Reviewed by Simon Oakland

Back in the 1970s, "Nature's Revenge" films like PROPHECY and DAY OF THE ANIMALS were all of the rage. Well, now in the first decade of the 21st Century with the polar ice caps melting and gas prices reaching in some places close to $5/gallon the subgenre has made a comeback, arguably starting with the big budgeted 2004 Roland Emmerich spectacle THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW. On a much smaller scale, THE LAST WINTER deals with a similar theme with much less predictable results.

I rather enjoyed THE LAST WINTER. I didn't read the back of the box, so going into it I didn't know what to expect other than what I could surmise from the artwork on the cover: something to do with a frozen corpse in a snowy wasteland. It sounded to me like the perfect movie to watch on a hot summer night! And it delivered.

An oil research team (led by Ron Perlman, aka HELLBOY) travels to the northern reaches of the Alaskan Arctic Wildlife Refuge in preparation for drilling. Representing the Environmental Protection Agency is James Le Gros (PHANTASM II, DRUGSTORE COWBOY) who, just by being present and performing his assigned duties, is a thorn in the side of Perlman's character. Aggrevating matters is that the winter has been milder than usual. If the ice isn't frozen hard enough, then the trucks wind up sinking into the ground and work comes to a standstill. To top it off, with the permafrost melting, hidden gases (or possibly spores) are being released into the atmosphere, causing hallucinations and paranoia within the party. Or is there a sinister, more evil, force at work?

To the filmmaker's credit, that answer is left vague, leaving it up to us, the viewers, to ultimately draw our own conclusions. Films like THE LAST WINTER are, unfortunately, few and far between in today's "Hollywood Blockbuster" mindset, where everything needs to be geared for children and have zero sense of subtlety, where all of the answers are to be firmly jackhammered into our skulls. I've seen far too many horror movies to ever feel a primal emotion like "fear" ever again while watching one, but I have to admit that this had the effect of leaving me sufficiently unsettled enough to give THE LAST WINTER a wholehearted recommendation to one and all. I suppose I should probably mention that it has a great ensemble cast as well. Aside from Perlman and Le Gros, the movie has the added benefit of featuring the ever enjoyable Kevin Corrigan of TV's GROUNDED FOR LIFE. (You know, at the moment I can't think of a single feature film in which any one of those actors have starred that I didn't like. Amazing.) Check it out.

Special Features include: "The Making of THE LAST WINTER"; A feature length documentary including deleted scenes and an interview with director Larry Fessenden. Also, feature commentary by writer/director Larry Fessenden.


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